Dental practices have been told they can reopen from June if they put in place appropriate safety measures.
Research reveals that nearly a third of Brits are reluctant to return to their dental practices post-lockdown so dentists are reassuring the public that practices will be one of the most sterile environments in the country.
In a letter to all practices, NHS England’s chief dental officer Sara Hurley, said: “We are asking that all dental practices commence opening from Monday June 8 for all face-to-face care, where practices assess that they have the necessary IPC and PPE requirements in place.”
At the moment any patient with an emergency dental problem is supposed to be referred to an Urgent Dental Care hub. More than 550 centres have been created to provide emergency treatment while meeting social distancing requirements.
How will going to the dentist be different?
Going to the dentist is likely to be a very different experience once practices reopen.
The virtual or remote consultations we have become accustomed to will continue even after reopening to aid convenience and reduce the need for contact in a surgery, with those in need of treatment then invited into practice.All patients in need of treatment may be called and briefed on the new procedures in place and details of their appointment before visiting the practice.
They may also be asked to complete and return a new medical history form digitally ahead of their appointment.
It is crucial that people come to the practice alone where possible, with the exception of young children and those with carers.
Ms Hurley has written to dentists about the sort of measures practices will need to consider before reopening, including:
Limiting use of waiting areas, with patients waiting outside if they arrive early
Waiting rooms chairs spaced two metres apart
Screening staff daily
Installing physical barriers, such as a plastic shield, in reception areas
Some dentists are already putting in place new measures. “We will arrange regular deep-cleanings of the entire surgery, and probably be including UV-light cleaners as well,” said Alexandra Germain, a dentist based in Marylebone, London.She also says that hand sanitiser, masks and gloves will be mandatory for patients in the waiting area.
Their messages were echoed by Catherine Tannahill, director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, which has more than 130 practices across the UK.
“She said: “As practitioners we want to reassure patients that a trip to the dentist in the new normal will mean they will be visiting one of the safest environments in the UK.
“It’s vital as a profession that we reopen and provide treatments once again to those in need, to help curb any potential dental health crisis in the future, such as a spike in oral cancer, one of the UK’s biggest causes of cancer related deaths.”
How do I get dental treatment right now?
If symptoms are serious, local dentists can prescribe medication, such as painkillers and antibiotics, over the phone. In such cases, dentists can contact local pharmacies, which can then prepare medication for patients to pick up.
If a patient has an urgent dental problem, they should be referred to a hub by their dentist. Other emergency treatment may also be available at some hospitals.
However, if a patient cannot reach their local dentist then the advice is to use the 111 online service.